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Turning Heartbreak into Hope: Honoring Ryan Campbell Taylor

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Meghan Franklin

Advancement Writer

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Ryan Taylor
Ryan Taylor

Vernon Taylor and Ralph Tingle have something in common they wish they didn’t: They lost their beloved son and stepson, Ryan Taylor (BSBA ‘04), in a tragic accident in 2006.

Their desire to honor Ryan’s memory, however, led them to create something beautiful. The same year Ryan passed away, they established the Ryan Campbell Taylor Memorial Endowed Scholarship Fund, which has been a source of hope for more than 25 DU students with unmet financial need since its inception.

What began with a generous endowed gift of $50,000 in seed money has continued to grow and is now worth $1.6 million, thanks to planned gifts from Taylor and Tingle, and ongoing contributions from others seeking to honor Ryan’s memory.

DU awards one or more students from the Rocky Mountain Region with the scholarship annually, giving preference to students from Colorado and New Mexico–both places that were dear to Ryan. Recipients are selected based on academic merit and financial need.

“I hope the scholarship allows the recipients a sense of security so that they can pursue their interests without huge financial pressures,” Taylor says.

That has been the case for Jordan Koler, a 4+1 student who will graduate with her MS in economics and social policy in the spring after just four years at DU.

“The scholarship alleviated a lot of financial burden for me, especially during my graduate coursework,” she says.

For Josue Vidrio Virula, the scholarship transformed their DU experience. A non-traditional student, Vidrio Virula was working full time and attending school full time.

“The scholarship completely changed the game for me,” they say. It enabled them to trade a full-time job for a part-time one, and their school performance soared.

With majors in international studies and Spanish and a minor in computer science, Vidrio Virula has their sights set on law school after graduation. They spent the last few months on a biodynamic farm in Ecuador, learning about international development and sustainable living. They also helped with community engagement, leading yoga and movement classes with local families.

“My experience abroad would not have been possible without the scholarship,” they say.

An avid outdoorsman, Ryan spent much of his childhood living on Tingle’s ranch outside of Santa Fe. Tingle fondly recalls riding horses, spending time at a family camp in the High Sierras and fishing with his stepson.

Taylor’s memories of his time with Ryan are steeped in the outdoors, too: Camping in the Sawtooth Mountains, rafting the Salmon River and heli-skiing, to name a few.

Apart from Ryan’s love of the outdoors, “He was a gentle giant: tall, handsome and very kind. And he loved DU,” Taylor says.

Shortly after Ryan’s death, Talyor found this entry in Ryan’s journal: “I keep thinking about how I’m going to miss DU. I knew I would, but not this much. Leaving college is like breaking up with an old girlfriend. After, you think nothing else . . . is likely to be as good.”

Vernon Taylor
Vernon Taylor (middle) with scholarship recipients.

Taylor says he knows Ryan would be delighted that his scholarship is benefiting so many DU students.

While Taylor and Tingle had a good relationship while Ryan was alive, the scholarship has kept them connected.

“We both feel good that we are doing something to remember Ryan and to help DU students,” Tingle says.

For Taylor and Tingle, the Ryan Taylor Memorial Scholarship is about more than providing financial support, it’s about investing in young people who have a lot of promise, just like Ryan did.

“When I can, I meet with students, talk with them about Ryan and ask them about their aspirations,” Taylor says. “I don’t think anything can impact one’s life more than education.” 

If you are interested in learning more about how planned giving can impact students at DU for years to come, please reach out to Jon Kraus @, or visit our planned giving online guide here